Paleo is short for paleolithic as in… a hell of a long time ago.
The truth is, I’m not a big fan of dogma. I feel like it can be another excuse to argue with strangers online (when you’re not looking at pictures of cats) and ain’t nobody got time for that.
So, why do I choose PALEO to describe my diet? Well, paleo is the closest way to describe the way we try to eat and live MOST of the time.
So, what do you eat and not eat on a PALEO diet?
- meat of all kinds (preferably pastured)
- fish (preferably wild caught)
- eggs (preferably pastured)
- vegetables (preferably local, seasonal and organic)
- fat, yes even saturated fat (from pastured animals, avocados, coconut, etc)
- fermented foods and beverages
- fruit (preferably local, seasonal and organic)
- nuts and seeds (if you tolerate them well)
- grains (especially gluten containing grains like wheat, rye and barley)
- legumes (including peanuts)
- processed foods
- refined sugar
Other similar REAL FOOD approaches are Primal (which includes raw grass-fed dairy), and Weston A. Price (which includes raw grass-fed dairy, and soaked and fermented grains). All of these approaches would fall under the category of “ancestral” or traditional.
So back to what paleo is… to me at least.
Paleo is eating real food, NUTRIENT DENSE food; food our ancestors would have recognized; food that is grown in the ground or roams the earth, that is minimally processed and not packaged in a box or bag with a shelf life of practically forever. Paleo is crowding out nutrient poor, pro inflammatory foods like grains. It’s an anti-inflammatory approach, hence the incredible results in people with autoimmune and other diseases. Does that mean that my family roams around the backyard grabbing handfuls of produce and inserting it into our mouths without so much as a rinse? Well, sometimes…
But most of the time we just do our best to plan, shop and prepare meat and veg at each meal and have some fruit and nuts available as well, especially for the growing kids. Does it mean we never buy anything in a package or of a shelf? Of course not! We love our occasional paleo treats and the 80/20 rule is what makes paleo sustainable for us in the long term.
Do you spend all day cooking?
Sometimes! One day a week we try to do some bulk cooking, where perhaps we roast some veg to later make a soup, make a big pot of bone broth, jello, booch. Every few months it seems we evolve (pun intended) to fit our life as it changes. Sometimes that means having macadamia nuts and raisins in the diaper bag for a hectic afternoon; other times it means challenging ourselves to eat more organ meat each week to take our health up a notch. Most of the time we just try to fit as much real food into our real world life as possible. And every once in a while we resort to ordering a dang gluten free pizza cause sh*t happens. Cavemen had nothing else to do than seek, prepare and consume food all day every day, between naps. That’s obviously not the life we live. <sigh> Most of us have jobs; kids have activities to be shuffled to and somewhere in the midst of all that, we have to eat.
It is possible to eat a paleo diet and have a busy life. At least 80% of the time. I promise.
Does the paleo diet cost a fortune?
It doesn’t have to! When we first started transitioning to a paleo diet we were eating pretty inexpensively. It wasn’t easy to switch from buying beans and rice to buying grassfed meat. So we had to make some compromises. For starters, we transitioned slowly. Then we also did some shifting in how we spend our time and money. Its about priorities and sometimes sacrifices. And I’ll definitely go into the affordability of this lifestyle in more depth in a future post but in the meantime I’ll leave you with Robb Wolf’s take on it. If you can’t afford pastured, organic, seasonal, etc just do the best you can and upgrade when as you are able.
Livefreelivehealthy.com has been circulating a graphic you may have seen that reads:
You are what you eat so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake
I find that pretty accurate. “You get what you pay for” may be enough to explain this as well. If you can eat lunch for $3 in 2013, yikes, I don’t want to know what’s in that taco! I think it was Joel Salatin who said “If you think Paleo is expensive you haven’t priced out cancer lately”. Word.
Paleo is more than a diet, its a lifestyle.
Keeping stress to a minimum, making sleep a priority, and being considerate about making this lifestyle sustainable for the planet are all things we care about. Mark Sisson went into great detail about all of this in his book, The Primal Connection which I highly recommend, especially if you’ve already got the food and exercise thing down but feel there’s a missing link.
For more info on where we buy our paleo food see this post.
Is the Paleo diet right for EVERYBODY? Is it a cure all?
I love the way Robb Wolf explained it in a recent podcast:
The Paleo diet is a logical framework. Its not a historical reenactment. We use this as a starting point.
I don’t find the Paleo diet to be a cookie cutter approach. I think it is an amazing start and for the average person coming from a SAD (Standard American Diet) or Vegetarian/Vegan diet I think MOST people will notice substantial improvements in health. That said, everyone is not the same when it comes to the proportion of macronutrients they need (protein/carbs/fat) and people with autoimmune diseases will likely need to further restrict their diet (nightshades, nuts etc). But its a hell of a start and has remarkably changed our life!